9×09: Provenance

“You saying this kid’s an alien or something?” — John Doggett
“You can believe or not, but the man who tried to kill Scully’s baby believed it… so must this cult he got involved with, who are obviously more than willing to kill for their belief.”
— Monica Reyes

We’re back to pondering little green men as Scully tries to protect her son from outside threats.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And we’re back to the Scully “My baby, my baby!” hour with “Provenance,” the first installment in a mythology two-parter, where the mysterious alien rubbings of a few seasons ago resurface and Scully has to deal with crazy people who want to kill her son. I think the biggest bummer for me here is that this episode has so much potential in it. Even though it’s a bit of a science fiction cliché to have a miracle/weird/alien baby, that’s still a subject that can be fruitful for storylines. But again, as I have felt watching some of the other later mythology episodes, there is a lack of urgency here. As tiring as it is to watch Scully mope and cry, Gillian Anderson does a phenomenal job conveying the anger and fear of a mother worried about her child — but despite that, I have trouble finding much of the episode particularly compelling.

The events of this episode kick off when Navajo rubbings are found on a motorcyclist who crashed trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border. (The rubbings are meant to be something of a callback to the “Biogenesis” / “The Sixth Extinction” days). Meanwhile, the motorcyclist, an FBI agent named Robert Comer, begins to heal thanks to … what else? An alien artifact.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Comer, who had been investigating some type of UFO cult before getting caught up in the group’s point of view, ends up breaking into Scully’s apartment and trying to attack William before Scully shoots him. The agent manages to tell Scully one thing, which doesn’t go over very well: William has to die. We eventually learn that Comer had been sent to investigate the cult based on a series of threats made on Mulder’s life and it seems as though Mulder may already be dead.

William, of course, chooses this time to display his miracle baby powers: After the aforementioned alien artifact flies at William and hovers over his head, Scully decides it’s time to get her son somewhere safe. But of course, this doesn’t go as planned: Doggett ends up getting run over in the process and The Lone Gunmen, who have been trusted to take care of William, end up ambushed by a woman who’s part of the cult.

To be continued.

It seems like elements of this episode are purely retread: The UFO cult thing really has been done to death at this point and the spacecraft rubbings aren’t half as interesting as other aspects of the mythology, such as the black oil. Despite Gillian Anderson’s consistently good acting, Scully gets to spend another hour in misery and our little miracle baby William’s storyline just feels a tad predictable.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Another thing that’s baffling is the mention of Mulder and the possibility of his death — I can appreciate the show’s desire to maintain some connection to a character that had been part of The X-Files universe for so long, but between this season and the parts of season eight where Mulder was absent, it’s actually become somewhat tiring to hear about a character we never see. And I’m saying this as someone who definitely considered Mulder her favorite character once upon a time. There is just something a little too hollow about this approach for my liking and frankly, even with David Duchovny trying to avoid the show for the most part at this point, I doubt the writers would have killed him off-screen. So this little revelation also doesn’t do much to emphasize that sense of urgency found in earlier mythology episodes.

Max: I’ve considered the two-parter that this episode is a piece of to be the worst of the series’ mythology outings, and that says a lot given how far astray the “Biogenesis” trilogy, from which this borrows quite a few elements of, went from the story that we’ve followed for all these years. It is especially annoying when you consider that, as Radhika mentioned, how much potential the events and ideas of this hour had in exploring new avenues of possibility for a story engine that has run out of gas for the most part.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Looking back on things now, the kick in the pants the mythology received as a result of both Scully’s pregnancy and Mulder’s abduction has been pretty well wasted. We got the setup for the super solider conspiracy, but so far the writers haven’t produced the kind of quality adversaries — like the Alien Bounty Hunter — that made things so successful in the past.

And speaking of the past, I flashed back a lot seeing Scully be brought in to a superior’s office to be questioned and examined by a bunch of mostly anonymous men — including the prominently shot Toothpick Man — a character we haven’t seen the last of on the show. This is in fact how we met Scully in the first place, being grilled by Section Chief Blevins in the Pilot about her credentials, her beliefs, and her familiarity with a certain wayward agent who made a basement office an outpost for some strange beliefs.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Those beliefs run through this episode at a powerful clip, informing both Scully’s decisions about the nature and safety of her family as well as the UFO cult’s devotion to and willingness to kill in the name of the extraterrestrial craft they are excavating from Canadian soil. And this is a part of why it bugs the both of us I think as to the potential these episodes have and what they could have been. The mythology may not make perfect sense on a macro level, and the puzzle pieces may not fit together in the micro, but what Philes can’t deny is that Carter and company have woven together a pretty impressive thematic tapestry over these nine seasons — a story of people (notably Mulder and Scully) dragged into a conspiracy at the highest levels of power, and the consequences of choices made years before they were born by men whose interests came at the detriment to mankind. Their lives were shaped by it, changed by it, irrevocably so.

What we got here though were our heroes merely reacting to things, struggling to keep up. Gone seemingly are the days when Mulder and Scully’s excellent investigative minds exposed them to unbelievable, horrific truths kept from the public, with the possibility that they could arrest the damage made by The Syndicate and their project. There are two elusive concepts on The X-Files: justice and happiness, and Scully has been denied both on numerous occasions. Baby William’s life is in the balance, but it is hard for us to think we will get any sufficent answers from all this struggle and sadness, let alone what would come even close to satisfy Scully.


Neil McDonough – Appearing here as Robert Comer, McDonough is an actor with an array of film, television and voice acting credits. He played Lieutenant Lynn “Buck” Compton on HBO’s Band of Brothers and also had roles in Boomtown and Desperate Housewives. He’s also played Dum Dum Dugan in a number of Marvel Cinematic Universe installments.

Alan Dale – Seen here as the Toothpick Man, Dale — who had a years-long stint on Aussie soap Neighbours, has appeared in a number of American series including The O.C., Ugly Betty, Lost, 24, ER, Entourage and more. He has also had minor roles in films including Star Trek Nemesis, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


One thought on “9×09: Provenance

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Season 9 | Apt. 42 Revisited

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